Colorado River, USA - Bill Lee
I’m Bill Lee, I was raised in California. I’m a sixth generation Californian, one of the few who has fished in the Los Angeles River. At the age of 18 months I used to collect frogs down by Griffith Park while my father played baseball.
My grandfather, Paul Adams Hunt, owned a large farm and he was the head of the Oakdale Irrigation District. So I was raised on the Stanislaus, a major tributary to the San Joaquin. We were dam builders. His uncle built Boulder Dam, he’s the guy who basically keeps the water flow from going to Mexico. We were turbine builders, we were presidents of the Edison Electric out of California. We were lawyers. We had a movie about us called Chinatown. That Burtynsky print that we have on the wall in the salon: as I sit in front of that photograph you are looking at the great nephew who created that. The heritage before me, and all of my relatives, basically constricted that land and the fact that now we have the San Juan River, which is basically contaminated, flowing into the Colorado, which is contaminated, flowing through the Page Dam up there in northern Arizona, Southern Utah.
And then you have the grand nephew sitting beneath that beautiful photograph showing the lack of water flow getting into the Baja California and the Sea of Cortez which is a tragedy and now I sit there and I’m going mea culpa, mea culpa….the fact that you’re looking at the prodigy of that destruction.
Why am I known as the Space Man? Well..it was a slow pressed day as Bob Newhart used to say. Bad things happened and we landed on the moon and I pitched an eight and two-thirds innings of relief of Luis Tiant when the ball game pitched us into first place and everybody surrounded my locker room thereby the little guy next to me, John Kennedy, couldn’t get to his date with his divorcee that he made; so it was basically a horny third base man that nick named me the Space Man. Regarding being known as a spokesperson in public life; how that came to be: I felt guilty, Catholic guilt, my whole life. It was always my fault, you know, it’s Billy’s fault, he started it, he did it, he threw the tantrum. I worked for FareShare, Mass. commission against handguns. I worked for the Abalone Alliance. The Clam Shell alliance with Jackson Brown. I was an anti-nuke guy, I was anti-everything. I became the poster child for lost causes. Then I see the planet Earth and what has happened to it and a prophet in his own time is not well respected.
My gravestone gets bigger and bigger, it’s gonna be like an obelisk almost like the Smith fellow who formed the Mormon religion. I would be a, what would you call it, a compassionate misanthrope. I don’t really like people, I like plants, I like stones, I like the earth. We have to learn to live together. Take care of the planet, erase all the borders en frontiere. I ran for president under the rhinoceros party in ‘88. I was not elected and we’ve gone downhill since. Space on my tombstone for water would say “I told you I was sick”.
It would be 90% or 86% water and it goes back into the earth, it’s reabsorbed by the animals, they decompose, there’s evaporation, it goes into the atmosphere, it condenses and hopefully my molecules end up in Lake Baikal in Siberia which can change one-sixth of the water of planet earth. I think our DNA goes all over the place. I have no concerns with my corpse.
Regarding the ways to be a water leader: every time I go to the beach I pick up trash. Every time I go into the mountains, I pick up trash. I go along all water ways and I see forms of pollution and sediment that doesn’t allow fish habitat to breathe. I see mal-logging practices. I was responsible for bringing Irving in for putting in culverts back in the 80’s when I came here. I was followed by the RCMP for blowing up the bridge, the causeway, on the Petitcodiac between Riverview and Moncton. Wondering what that was all about. When they realized I was the Space Man. Being like a court jester, I could make statements like that and finally they would say, he won’t do it. The ancient mariner. Water, water, everywhere, not a drop to drink. Without water, it’s a finite space. It’ll be here. It’s precious.